Tobacco Through The Ages: A Timeline.

1492: Columbus, having sailed the ocean blue, notices Indians smoking and thus becomes the first known European to encounter tobacco. Indians take pains to look "cool" while smoking so as to exact a small measure of revenge for their coming annihilation.

1556: The fashion-forward French become the first Europeans to take to smoking.

1557: By now, European doctors are recommending smoking to combat bad breath and cancer. That's right: bad breath and cancer.

1607: King James I publishes a scathing indictment of smoking, calling it a "vile custom" and a "filthy novelty" that is "dangerous to the lungs." Tobacco company executives promptly swear before the king's court that there is absolutely no proof that smoking is vile, filthy, a custom, or a novelty, let alone dangerous to the lungs.

1610: Sir Francis Bacon notes that it is kind of hard to quit smoking.

We're just going to skip ahead here 384 years to

1994: Seven tobacco executives swear before the United States Congress that nicotine is not addictive.

Now, back to our timeline:

1624: Pope Urban VII threatens to excommunicate those who snort snuff because sneezing is too similar to orgasm. (Really.)

1724: Pope Benedict XIII, a smoker, overturns Urban's ban on tobacco.

1761: British scientist John Hill publishes the first study to point out that ever since people started snorting snuff, there seems to be a lot of nose cancer floating around.

1776: American tobacco is used as collateral for French loans, helping to pay for the American Revolution.

1890: Per capita, American adults chew three pounds of tobacco annually.

1912: Dr. Isaac Adler publishes research that, for the first time, argues strongly that smoking may cause lung cancer. Tobacco company executives race to Dr. Adler's house and swear on a stack of Bibles that smoking does no such thing.

1921: Tobacco marketing has kicked into high gear: R. J. Reynolds spends $8 million on advertising, promoting their slogan "I'd Walk a Mile for a Camel" (And, Boy, Would I Be Out of Breath).

1940: Per capita, American adults smoke 2,558 cigarettes per year (more than 7 per day).

1950: Three major studies definitely prove that smoking causes lung cancer.

After trying out a tattooed sailor, Philip Morris settles on a cowboy as the Marlboro Man. Beginning in 1975, the Marlboro Man is played by Wayne McLaren, who dies in 1992 at the age of 51 from lung cancer.

1966: First Surgeon General's Warnings appear on cigarette packages in the United States.

1971: TV and radio tobacco ads for cigarettes disappear as a result of 1969 legislation.

2004: Despite extensive anti smoking efforts, tobacco smoke still kills about 440,000 Americans every year.


From mental_floss' book Scatterbrained, published in Neatorama with permission.

Be sure to visit mental_floss' extremely entertaining website and blog!

Newest 5
Newest 5 Comments

Was the point of the article to chide smokers? I found it merely informative, historically. [In the meantime, everyone is surely free to die at their speed of choice. If you are looking for something quick and pleasurable, let me suggest skydiving sans parachute. Faster, cheaper, not too mention less suffering in the end.] This was a great article!
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Login to comment.

Email This Post to a Friend
"Tobacco Through The Ages: A Timeline."

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.


Success! Your email has been sent!

close window

This website uses cookies.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using this website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

I agree
Learn More